Those who forget the past are generally maroons

April 25, 2015 § 37 Comments

Today is supposed to be a happy day, as 800+ bicycle riders try to come up with reasonable-sounding excuses as to why they can’t actually participate in tomorrow’s Belgian Waffle Ride despite having paid the $136 entry fee, purchased $3,402.71 in new cycling equipment, and retained the services of a professional coach.

But for me, even though I’m going down to San Diego in an hour or so to help mark the course and pick up my number, it’s not really all that happy. I can’t stop thinking about the refugees from Syria and Somalia who are drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in dinghies, rubber rafts, and leaky vessels, all in order to reach Western Europe.

Consider this:

The US State Department in Washington, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.

[The owners of the boats] knew even before the [boats] sailed that its passengers might have trouble disembarking in [Europe].

The voyage[s] of the [refugees] attracted a great deal of media attention. Right-wing [European] newspapers deplored its impending arrival and demanded that the government cease admitting [the] refugees. Indeed, the passengers became victims of bitter infighting within the government [s].

Many [Europeans] resented the relatively large number of refugees whom the government had already admitted into the country, because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs. Hostility toward immigrants fueled both [anti-Mulsim sentiment] and xenophobia.

This is not an edited clip from a newspaper describing the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s an edited clip taken directly from the online story on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Museum about the voyage of the St. Louis, a German ship filled with Jewish refugees who in 1939 were refused entry to Cuba and to the United States as they fled Hitler’s campaign to exterminate European Jewry, a campaign whose earnestness was shown to all who cared to look in the Kristallnacht attacks of 1938.

Most oblivious to the historical implications of denying entry to refugees are the Australians, who have advised the EU to deal with refugee boats the same way that they do, by simply telling would-be immigrants that they will never set foot on Australian shores, that they will be turned away by military vessels, that no aid will be given, and that if their boats are not seaworthy, they will drown under the watchful eye of the Australian coast guard.

Australia touts the effectiveness of the program. Before implementation, over 1,200 people drowned trying to reach the continent. Today no one dies at sea because the PR campaign has effectively discouraged people from trying. Instead, refugees flee to New Guinea, Cambodia, and other places where the Australian government pays those governments to take in refugees. The governmental payees pocket the money and let the refugees try to “find a better life” in the squalor and poverty of some of the world’s worst slums. “There is lots of work in Cambodia,” one Aussie official was quoted as saying.

But at least the refugees aren’t dirtying up the streets of Sydney, stealing the jobs of white Australians and contributing to crime and unemployment. As in America, white Australians are apparently falling all over themselves to do the brutal, back breaking jobs typically done by immigrants.

As I was doing a BWR prep ride with a small group a couple of months ago, I chatted with a fellow rider about the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would have given amnesty to undocumented immigrant children brought to this country by their parents and who, through no fault of their own, quite literally live in the shadows.

“Well,” he said, “those kids … that was me.”

“What?” I stared in disbelief.

“Yeah. I didn’t have a green card until I was eighteen. I lived my entire childhood as an illegal, and it wasn’t until the amnesty of 1986 that I stopped living in daily fear of arrest and deportation.”

There we were, riding bikes, getting ready for the ultimate expression of privileged, middle aged faux athleticism, chatting about wives, kids, and the “travails” of white-collar jobs. We were both productive members of society–sort of–,responsible husbands and fathers–sort–of, and the beneficiaries of limitless opportunity, but one of us could only have gotten where he was by the stroke of a legislative pen.

And here we’re about to go ride our bikes again as thousands of others are about to embark on a deadly venture across the open sea, ruled by cut-throats, smugglers, and gangs, risking starvation, disease, and death because every one of those outcomes is better than what awaits them if they remain at home.

The Belgian Waffle Ride is about to happen with its supposed hardness, toughness, and difficulty … indeed.

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This town ain’t big enough for the two of ya

April 24, 2015 § 25 Comments

Every Thursday we have a little ride called the Flog Ride, or Love & Thursday, or the Joe’s Sleeping in Again Ride. You can’t always count on who’s going to show up, but you can count on this:

  1. NJ Pedal Beater will be there.
  2. You will get dropped.

NJ Pedal Beater is English, but he’s lived in the U.S long enough so that we can sort of understand him. Not that we get to chat with him much, because he rides on the front as hard as he can until he either drops everyone or until he blows, or both. NJ Pedal Beater always smiles and is hail-fellow-well-met, but he doesn’t ride 25 miles one-way on Thursdays to make the Flog Ride’s 6:35 AM liftoff in order to make small talk.

He does it because the Flog Ride provides the only non-racing weekday opportunity unencumbered by stop lights or shrieking ride bosses demanding that you pull through, or stop for traffic, or take reasonable steps to prevent killing yourself and others. No, the Flog Ride is a kind of delectably rare truffle that simply offers up a relentless, hilly beating for 60 minutes before work.

Unlike the Flog Ride’s Thursday competition, the New Pier Ride, you can’t sit in. Essentially you get up early, drink your coffee, roll to the start, say hello, and spend the rest of the morning by yourself. It is a great ride for introverts. NJ Pedal Beater is a very social introvert in that he always says “Hello” before zooming away. If you’re unlucky enough to be strong enough to hold his wheel, you had better stay alert because NJ Pedal Beater has a bad case of the droops, where his head hangs down and he fearlessly plows over metal grates, rocks, tree limbs, and anything else in his way.

As much as you’d love to advise him on proper etiquette (avoiding large chasms, pointing shit out, not descending the wet 180-degree peacock-filled turns full gas, not crossing the DYL, not making the 90-degree right hook onto PV Drive North full tilt) you never actually can because he’s always in front of you and you’re gassed or he’s dangling off the front and you’re gassed or he’s attacking and you’re gassed or he’s a tiny little speck in a galaxy far, far, away.

NJ Pedal Beater is the toughest rider in the wankoton, hands down. He recently awoke at 2:35 AM, hopped on his bike, and did a 300-mile round trip ride, stopping once and averaging 18.6 mph. He has the recovery of a small child, and no matter how cracked and broken he appears to be, as soon as he gulps twice he’s back pounding at the front.

This morning was no different. NJ Pedal Beater zoomed off, followed by the Wily Greek. This was our cue for an easier flogging on the Flog Ride, and it was easier–for a moment or two. That’s when a new face rolled to front and began administering a very painful Brazilian wax. Soon enough we were in the gutter, breathless, cursing, and livid at being made to grovel on the wheel of a youngish wanker with more leg hair than a silverback, midget socks, and a complete lack of concern for our misery.

In addition, as if any were needed, he pointed out all obstacles well in advance, took safe and clean lines, kept his head up, and held a steady, surge-free, nut-crunching pace.

I flatted, thank dog, and what was left of the chasers raced away.

Many minutes later I clawed to the finish atop La Cuesta. NJ Pedal Beater and the others were there. I went up to the new kid. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Alx Bns,” he said.

“Bns? That’s a weird name.”

“No, it’s ‘Bns,'” he said, which sounded suspiciously like what he’d said a second ago.

“Been riding long?” I asked.

The response shocked me. I can’t even approximate it, but it sounded like this: “Istaatdsmtimbkprpsayrrrtoagonnmrdnwthbgrnge.”

“Dude,” I said, fearing the worst, “don’t be so stingy with the vowels. They’re free here in America.”

He muttered some more singsong consonants and then I looked over at NJ Pedal Beater, who had clearly understood everything he’d said. A light went on: Bns was another Englishman. Or maybe just another mad dog. I hesitated before calling him a wanker, knowing that among those of the green citrus persuasion it’s a mild insult, kind of like calling someone “anus face.”

“Look here, wanker,” I said. “You’re beastly strong, bloody tough, tea and crumpets and all that rot. But we already have one crazy strong Englishman who kicks us in the groin every Thursday, and we don’t need another.”

Bns warbled some more consonants and smiled pleasantly.

“Fuggit,” I said. “Wanna go grab coffee?”

He said something unintelligible and smiled in a friendly way that indicated he did not understand the depth of our anger and lifelong enmity at having been smushed to a pulp by a hairy-legged newbie who couldn’t even talk English goodly. But that’s okay. He’ll learn.

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The fattening

April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments

It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.

“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”

“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”

“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”

“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”

“Mxyzptlk.”

I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.

And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.

You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)

The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.

Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”

Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”

Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.

So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:

  1. Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
  2. Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
  3. Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.

So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!

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No place for old men

April 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

I have to take my hat off to Sam Ames, the guy who promotes the annual district masters road race championships here in SoCal. He makes very difficult races, runs them well, and gets the predictable flak.

This year CHP advised that no follow cars would be allowed, so riders were told to pack a tube, lever, and CO2 cartridge. One rider called Sam to voice his displeasure. “No follow car? For the state championship? That’s unacceptable!”

“Look, Wankface,” said Sam. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yeah. What?”

“How many races have you been in where you flatted, got a timely change from the follow car, chased back on, and won?”

Pause. “Well, never.”

“So be sure to bring a spare tube, okay?”

The 50+ race had a star-studded field of used-to-be’s and wish-I’d-been’s, but the only one who mattered, it turned out, was Thurlow. After 65 miles in the skin-sizzling heat, after 7,000 feet of climbing, and after all but ten riders had been ripped like a hangnail out of the lead group, BonkBreaker’s Zimmerman attacked over the last little hump. He opened a gap and Chris Walker bridged. Seeing the looks of grim desolation on the faces of the remnants, Thurlow launched and joined the leaders.

Zimmerman dropped a kidney, Thurlow attacked and soloed in, and Walker could do naught but pedal squares to the line.

Not that I saw any of it. I had been dispensed with many miles before, discarded with the disgust and finality of a used Kleenex. But like every other bicycle race it had started full of promise and hope.

We rolled out some thirty riders strong, powering into a unique air formation that proved to be a headwind going out, a headwind coming back, and an underwind-topdown wind everywhere else, with a dose of powerful sidewind, like gonorrhea. We hit the first climb and I hewed to my mantra: “Hide, cower, suck wheel. Save me, Father Carbon.”

Midway up it was clear that the prayer and the expensive wheel purchase and the monk-like existence of fasting, celibacy, sobriety, and 8:00 PM bedtimes was working. The only thing that gave me pause was the disclaimer on the flyer that said, as it always does, “Watch out for rattlesnakes, venomous spiders, scorpions, and attack bees.”

I wondered about that because we were passing a huge clump of roadside blooming weeds and they were covered in bees. “Are they attack bees?” I wondered. “What is an attack bee?” At that instant three of them flew into the large vents in my helmet. I am allergic to bee stings.

Ever since I was a small child I have been terrified of bees and wasps.When I was eight I kicked a wasp’s nest and got 35 stings, wound up in the hospital for a week, and almost died. The following summer I doused a beehive with lighter fluid and tried to burn it, but the fire didn’t take. The bees, however, did, and what they took to was me. Fifty stings and another hospital stay and lots of injections. When I was twelve my brother and I tried to eradicate all the yellow jacket nests in our neighborhood. We had a long stick with rags soaked in gasoline, and went from nest to nest incinerating them.

All went well until the fifth one. The rags came undone and fell onto my head, aflame. My hair caught fire and the wasps attacked. This time I had to get a bit of a skin graft, which got infected, and I simultaneously almost died from what the doctor said was a record, one hundred wasp stings.

I thought about all that as the attack bees crawled around on my scalp. I hoped that they would find the anterior wind vent and exit, but as I waited the first acceleration came. Several riders didn’t come with it, but I hid and cowered and survived. We made it to the turnaround and Jeff K. punched it over each of the short stabbing climbs we had descended into the little valley and now had to come out from.

More riders chose a different, more humane pace. I struggled, and straggled, and held on. The bees continued to crawl around my head. As we hit the long 4-mile headwind to complete our first 25-mile lap, Todd P. began castigating us for our slowness and laziness. “When are you guys gonna start racing?” he snapped, attacking off the front into the wind, where he was followed by G$. They vanished.

I thought about that question, “When are you guys gonna start racing?” and realized that if we hadn’t started yet, then I didn’t want to be — and plainly wouldn’t be — around when we did. We finished the first lap and several more riders chose a different pace; a couple even decided to unilaterally shorten their race from three laps to one, mortally wounded as they were by Proximity To The Car Fever and its attendant symptom, Common Sense.

Two of the bees flew out, so I was down to one. We started up the big climb again. Todd and G$ were thirty seconds ahead. Our designated rider, DJ, was going to need some help on this one. I always love it when a team leader needs a dutiful lieutenant to go jump on several dozen grenades, because that’s always my cue to cower and hide even more. Teammates are an abstraction in bike racing, because in reality everyone is your enemy and they must all be killed in order for you to prevail.

Alan F., who had been trading places with me at the rear, moved to the point to bring back G$ and Todd. Inexplicably I was on his wheel. Was it reflex? Bad judgment? A misguided attempt to help my teammate?

No!

It was part of the Iron Rule of Bicycle Racing:

Throughout the race, people will behave irrationally, hopelessly, and with no clear objective other than self-defeat so that he who waits longest and does the least can pounce and win.

G$and Todd were deep in the throes of senselessness and as Alan dragged them back, my proximity to the front was wearing me out. What was I doing there? Why was I anywhere near the front? Didn’t I know that every square millimeter of wind exposure was the same as riding with a spinnaker when you are large and fat and slow and weak and tired?

When Alan sat up, Chris Walker pulled through hard, inflicting difficulty and little black spots on the weak and infirm. Alan and I tailed off. “Good work, guys,” DJ said as we imploded. We had pulled back 3.1 or perhaps 1.2929272028 seconds on G$ and Todd, who now instead of being tiny specks were more like smallish specks.

Alone again, naturally, I chased back on, got dropped again, hit the turnaround, passed the women’s field, then got passed by the women’s field, then settled into a rhythm of despair and self-loathing and full-body cramps, each racking shudder causing me to think “Wow, I didn’t know there was a muscle there.”

On the downhill I was overhauled by King Harold and Dandy. They were angry, breathing fire, and mostly intent on catching and dropping the women. I was now lodged in the Pincer Movement from Hell, having to choose between hanging onto their battering pulls into the under/top/side/headwind, or sitting up and never re-passing the women. The final lap was as terrible as childbirth when you are a human and the progeny is a grown and angry porcupine.

Dandy and King Harold pulled me around, waited for me on the climbs, and after a mere one hour and fifteen minutes of indescribable torment, their teamwork, assistance, and selfless work got us to the line, where, after resting for the entire final 25 miles, I dropped them both and sprinted for 17th place.

You know it was a difficult race when the finishers are rolling around in the dirt afterwards clenched up in various post-race cramp positions. Fortunately, the race turned out much more successfully for me than my 19th place might indicate. By spending about $1,500 on new wheels, I moved up ten places from the previous year. So with another $1,500 expenditure in 2016 I can expect a top-ten, and then a final $1,500 investment in 2017 should ensure a win. I probably won’t even have to show up and they can just mail me my medal. Right?

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Don’t just do it

April 17, 2015 § 25 Comments

I always wondered about that slogan. Just do what? It? Really? What if “it” is jumping off a bridge? Letting a drunk frat dude shoot an apple off my head with a compound bow? Have another one for the road? Because as we all know, the more you drink the more awesome the road becomes, especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

Don’t just do it. First, think about it, then, 99 times out of a 100, don’t do it. Then watch how time and unfolding events reward the cautious, the timid, the conservative, the frightened, the calculating, and the weak as the brave Just Doers plunge over the falls in a barrel.

When it comes to the state road race in Bakersfield tomorrow, however, you should definitely just do it. I know I’m going to. Why? Because it will be steel-smelting hot, dry as a California drought in the Central Valley — where Bakersfield actually is — and monumentally tough.

“Those are all reasons NOT to do it,” you’re saying to yourself.

Not quite. I forgot to add that it’s 75 miles long, hilly as hell, and the roadway is lined with stinging giant bees and rattlesnakes and oilfield trucks who think you would make a great piece of grill meat, right next to the mushed up grasshoppers and other bugs.

“Fuggit,” you’re saying. I can hear you. “No fuggin’ way.”

If your racing age is 50, though, maybe I can entice you because the 50+ Rather Leaky Prostate Category is going to be fun. As of today the pre-reg shows that at a minimum the race will be attended by Konsmo, Leibert, The Hand of God, Jaeger, and a bunch of other people I’ve never beaten in any bike race, ever. Day-of cameos will likely include Mark Noble, DQ Louie, The Parksie Twins, and one or two other carbon-eating bikeovores.

Since past behavior is the single best predictor of future performance, the fact that I’ve been dropped from the lead group every year since 2008 racing against essentially the same cast of crazies seems to indicate that this year will be more of the same, and since the race is 75 miles instead of 50, paying tribute to the biological reality that we get faster and stronger as we get older, I may be able to add a big fat DNF to my state road race palmares.

Delusion, however, dies hard, especially when it lives in tandem with massive infusions of cash. Fact is, I’m ready for this race. My monthly mileage is up to 150. I’ve bumped my FTP up from 185 to 189, and at 170 pounds I’m even svelter than I was when I worked as a burger chef. The cash infusion, however, will be decisive.

Since Mrs. WM doesn’t ever read this blog I can confess that three days ago I picked up a pair of FastForward back-ordered Super Ultra F-12 Full Carbon Tubular Climbing Carbon Four Spoke Heliomatrix Elevator Racing Wheels, which are full carbon with a carbon content of 100%. They are carbon and even though I got the super-down-low-don’t-tell-a-soul-this-is-just-for-you Bro Deal, my credit card started smoking when they ran it through the little card reader thingy.

Next, not worried at all about how I was going to pay the rent, okay, a little worried, I dashed over to Boozy P.’s place. Boozy P. is my ace mechanic. He lives behind a massive craft brewery and has franking privileges there like the US Congress does at the post office. I’m not making this up. It was the crack of noon, so Boozy was just getting out of floor when I banged on the garage door.

“Yo, Boozy!” I yelled. “I got some work for ya!”

There was a long silence followed by lots more silence. I banged harder and Boozy silenced harder. He eventually rolled up the garage door and blinked at the sunlight. “Sure is getting light earlier now,” he said.

“It’s noon, Boozy. It’s always light at noon.” I handed him the wheels. “Dude, Saturday is the most important race of my life. I bought these full carbon 100% carbon wheels just for the race and I need you to glue on the tires. We’ll be hitting 50 mph on the downhills so it has to be done right. A rolled tire and I’m a dead man. My life is in your hands.”

“Yeah, of course,” he said, absentmindedly reaching over for a hammer.

“Not the hammer, Boozy, the rim cement. And you need to use more than half a thimble on these puppies.”

“Yeah, sure thing, dude.” Boozy sat down on the bench and began wiping away the rivers of sweat that poured off his head and stomach. “What color bar tape did you say you wanted?”

“I didn’t say anything about bar tape. We’re talking about tubulars and how my life depends on you doing this right and how you’re gonna glue ’em on perfectly and not with that fuggin’ hammer.” Boozy was fiddling with the hammer again, and it was making me nervous.

“Sure thing, dude.” Boozy wiped away more sweat. “Hey, I think the brewery’s open now. Wanna go grab a quick one for the road?”

“I quit drinking, remember?”

Boozy looked sad. “Oh yeah, that’s right. Mind if I go get a couple IPA’s? One for me, and I’ll drink your one for the road.”

“Sure, but glue on the tires first.”

“Right,” he said. “Could you hand me that screwdriver?”

I left before the migraines began. Two days later I picked up the wheels. The fact that three quarts of rim cement were not smeared from the the rims to the tires to the spokes to the hubs meant that Boozy had either done an immaculate job or he’d used the industry-standard 1/4 thimble of glue and half a gob of spit.

I got home and put on the wheels. The were so light that my bike kept jerking up off the pavement. I floated up the Cove Climb. I dance up Via Zumaya. I jetted up Hawthorne and Monaco faster than I’d ever pedaled before. The tires were glued to perfection. My legs felt good, and suddenly the prospect of being thrown into the cage with Greg, Jeff, THOG, DJ, and the Parksie Twins didn’t seem scary, only pointless and stupid.

I was gonna do it on Saturday. Just do it.

END

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Crazy eyes

April 16, 2015 § 23 Comments

I rolled down to the Starbucks at the mall after work, pretentious foreign language novel under my arm and jaunty beret neatly covering my bald spot. First, I ordered the public off-menu Sulawesi pango-pango, which I always order.

“Excuse me,” I said as the girl swiped my gift card. “The public off-menu has the tall listed as $3.00 and you just charged me $3.50.”

The barista looked at me funny. In Palos Verdes fifty cents isn’t an actual monetary sub-unit. “Oh, you’re right,” she said. Then she thumbed up at the publicly secret off-menu. “The manager hasn’t changed the prices yet.”

“Well he has on the register … ” I trailed off.

“Right,” she said, rolling her eyes and then taking out a complicated swipe card + key and getting the assistant manager’s authorized signature before refunding me my two quarters. I realized that even though people in PV don’t count quarters, the Starbucks assistant manager apparently does.

Next, I settled down at the table and took out my pretentious foreign language novel, and after that my even more pretentious issue of the Economist. It was conveniently opened to an article about quantitative easing in the EC and the way it has doused deflationary fears with mitochondrial expression of lysosomes and the mechanistic target of rapamycin.

No sooner had I comfortably propped up the pretentious foreign language novel so that everyone could see it than a crazy lady came up to me. I knew she was crazy at first glance. She was blonde and very pretty but her eyes were crazy. It took one glance at the eyes for me to know, that and the shopping cart. She was in the middle of a cramped Starbucks with an entire shopping cart from the Pavilions grocery store next door.

Beautiful women with giant shopping carts in the Starbucks are generally crazy. Inside the shopping cart was a mountain of food, mostly chips and frozen items. The frozen items were melting, I supposed, further evidence of her craziness. Atop Mt. Frozen Food she had perched her two screaming, squalling, snot-covered brats, the obvious source of her insanity.

The children had that dirty, fungal, contagious look of 2-year-olds who had been scrubbed clean at 7:00 AM but by 5:00 PM were covered in a layer of food bits, spit, dirt, dried blood, grunge from the floor of the shopping aisles, and spilled liquids whose chief qualities were brown. The children smelled sour and were full of terrible energy. I felt slightly crazy just looking at them.

The woman had that triple-post-partum depression that has morphed into edgy infanticidal tendencies, and she paid no attention to the brats as they teetered, screaming, atop the melting ice cream, with lots of empty space between their heads and the hard floor they were poised to launch onto at any moment. The crazy woman glanced at my book and snorted contemptuously. Then to no one except perhaps the kids, since there didn’t appear to be any other Slavs in the cafe, she let out a string of what I can only assume were monstrous curses in Russian.

Although I don’t speak Russian, I do speak angry mother, and the phrase “Stop doing that or I will smack the shit out of you” is the same in all languages.

Just as I tried to refocus from her breasts to my pango-pango, she said something to me. I knew it was me because the only other people nearby were two high school kids who were shrieking and laughing at some private joke. “Hey you,” said the crazy lady. “Is that your bicycle?” She pointed to my trick whip leaning against the window.

“Yes,” I said, “but I won’t trade it for the cart and the kids.”

She laughed. “They terrible little monsters.” On cue the tousle-headed boy smacked his sister in the face, who responded by smacking him back and biting his arm. We moved our lips at each other for a few seconds until we could hear dimly through the din of howling cries.

“They don’t look like little monsters,” I smiled. “More like dreadful little blood-sucking aliens.”

The crazy lady brightened, perhaps hoping I’d reconsider the kid-trade offer she had been about to make before I had read her mind and rejected it. “You bicyclist? That’s very fancy bike for coffee shop riding.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m a professional.”

“You ride for the pro team?”

“Sure. I’m with Katusha.”

She cocked an eyebrow and said something that had po-russki stuck in it somewhere. “No, I don’t speak Russian,” I said. “I’m based here in the states.”

“My friend he is bicycle racer,” she said as one of the brats hurled the tub of half-thawed ice cream out of the fort.

“What’s his name? I probably know him. Hell, if he’s Russian I’ve probably beaten him.”

“Dmitri Shostakovich. You know him?”

“Dmitri? Sure. Russian dude from Moscow, right? Raced with him a bunch in Belgium.”

“You so smart,” she laughed. “But very bad liar. You just old man with fancy bike maybe no job because you hanging out around high school girls in coffee shop chatting at housewife when other man still working hard at job for family.”

“Hey, you got me wrong. Doesn’t Dmitri ride for a Continental team? Or is he on Oleg Tinkov’s development squad? I can’t remember, but I know the dude. Really.”

“Dmitri Shostakovich great Russian composer, he is died in 1975.”

“Oh,” I said. “THAT Dmitri Shostakovich. So, you come here often?”

The two brats were in a death clench of screams, hits, bites, and sloppy quiescent treats. “Yes, sometimes,” she said. “Do you?” The crazy in her eyes had dialed up to eleven. They went up to eleven.

I looked again at the kids. “No,” I said. “I’m visiting here from Texas. Leaving town in a half hour.” I left my pango-pango on the table, the cup still hot and half-full.

END

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You can’t say that, No. 6

April 14, 2015 § 18 Comments

Ah yes, the old pray-for-a-miracle or form-changing-in-the-middle-of-a-five-day-stage-race race plan: “If I got lucky and the form changed or something then maybe I’d win it.” Chris Horner on his strategy for winning the Redlands Classic. CyclingNews, April 13, 2015.

It’s true, there weren’t a lot of fans jumping up and down saying “18th! He did it!”: “Some detractors may say him finishing 18th is a little underwhelming.” David Brailsford, trying to make the best of Brad Wiggins’s disappointing, final road race at Paris-Roubaix. CyclingNews, April 14, 2015.

The question tormenting your team is “Why didn’t you win?”:  “A question has been tormenting me since yesterday!!!” Luca Paolini, complaining about why riders were allowed to slip through the closed railway crossing during Paris-Roubaix. CyclingNews, April 14, 2015.

END

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